Saturday, March 01, 2008

Michael Clayton: Grade A

Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack. Director Tony Gilroy.

Clooney is Michael Clayton, a high powered attorney at a prestigious New York City law firm, in the present day. One of the firm’s lawyers (Wilkinson) goes off his meds and AWOL and we learn he has had a crisis of conscience and is about to turn whistleblower on a big corporation the firm is defending. Clooney’s job is to reel him in before he does the damage, but Clooney also becomes infected with conscience and then hunted by unnamed assailants (we suspect the evil corporation, fronted by their attorney, Swinton). The familiar story is like any Grisham novel, and actually a lot like the movie, Erin Brockovich, so it is a stretch to call it a “thriller” or even a mystery. It is just an ordinary story, well-told. The script is realistic and the acting is very convincing, so you are interested in what the characters have to say and do, and isn’t that the essence of a good movie? The cinematography is a star in its own right. Every shot is obviously done with thoughtfulness and an artistic eye. I could have used stronger plot development, and especially a better ending, but that carries its own risks. I'll take naturalism over tricky, self-conscious writing.

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